Entrepreneur of The Year says “Stay Positive”

Anishya Kumar of Zinda Foods and winner of ‘Business Woman of the Year’ in the British Indian Awards 2019, talks with women UK about the issues facing entrepreneurs.  In the face of adversity, Anishya teaches us how to stay positive.

The Internal and External Dilemmas Facing Entrepreneurs

Staying positive has 2 dimensions as an entrepreneur.  Firstly, it requires fighting one’s own negative thoughts.  The thoughts that prevent you from achieving your goal.  This requires us to organise our minds.

Secondly, fighting sceptics that are all too quick to shoot your idea or vision down.  This requires grit, determination and resilience.  You need unbreakable self-belief in your mission and product to achieve what you want as an entrepreneur.  As you persevere, you learn to develop a thick skin, tunnel vision and a die-hard attitude.   The entrepreneurial life teaches you to stay committed, focused and clear headed on this long & often lonely journey.

The Entrepreneur Journey: Humble Beginnings

My entrepreneur journey started in 2013 when I walked away from the corporate world to look after my young family.  It was a simple thought of creating meals to nurture my loved ones at home.  Meals made with fresh nutritious foods, similar to what I was brought up on back in India.  Unable to stomach packaged meals from the supermarkets I decided to create my own.  I started retailing these at local convenience stores down the road from where I lived, operating out of my home kitchen/garage.  This is where I cooked, packed & delivered these meals to each store personally.

As demand for the meals and wraps grew, I decided to take a leap of faith to scale operations.  This was not an easy proposition or decision and every possible route or option I exercised reached road blocks.  Critical to the scale up was manufacturing.  The easiest product to convert on a commercially viable scale were our wraps.  However, this dream was short-lived as getting someone to manufacture for us was an uphill task.

Scaling The Business

The AirWrap base was a proprietary recipe, handmade, labour intensive & required skill to make.  No tortilla manufacturer could develop this as the recipe was devoid of preservatives, palm oil or trans fat and required no processing.  Food to go manufacturers would not touch the product as the processes were different to their current filled wrap lines. Doors closed before me one by one.

It was then that I decided to bite the bullet, stay positive & on track and take the bull by the horn.  No large listing in place & only a few small independent retailers in the bag I decided to set up a bespoke factory that would make our, now award-winning, AirWraps come to life.

Financing The Scale Up

Then we faced the second major hurdle- financing this project.  We met with several project consultants, but each of them  tried to convince us that this was unfeasible on a small budget.  They said we needed half a million to fund it.  I realised at this point that I had no access to finance, and banks would not lend to a startup.  So, on a shoestring budget, I approached the local growth hub to give me 2 start-up loans, set up the factory (with no prior experience) and got it BRC accredited.

Entrepreneur Rule of Thumb:  Don’t Listen To Sceptics

Now we had a fully kitted out bespoke factory and needed to get listings.  This was probably the biggest hurdle to cross.  The odds were heavily stacked against me.  Every retailer we approached made us more disillusioned than ever, despite how successful sales were in our other stores.  There were several people who advised at this stage not to approach any of the big retailers as we were not ready.  I decided to discount all the sceptics and told myself that “I may not be ready, but the product sure is”.  Dive in and then learn to swim.   So I decided to approach Tesco.  Thankfully, they loved the product and decided to give it a try.  SUCCESS!

We went from producing 250 to now 15,000 wraps a week.  From managing 2 staff to 14, with systems and processes that were new and intimidating.

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Reflecting On The Entrepreneur Journey

At no stage has this journey been easy and there have been several times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel.  Along the way I have received unwavering support from my family, friends, and now all those associated with Zinda Foods.  Especially my staff, who keep me motivated everyday.  I keep reminding myself now that real dreams are not the ones that help us sleep at night- real dreams are the ones that keep us awake all night!

So when life throws curve-balls we entrepreneurs learn to play dodge-ball!

Today, we are enjoying all the hard work put in and the incredible feedback we receive on our products, with a loyal customer base, bringing in new customers to the FTG space who love the wraps. We feel proud to know that Zinda Foods is making a positive change in people’s lives with a healthier option in the FTG lunch time offering and that our products give people an option to eat better, live better which inspire us to build better products, understand nutrition better and continue to deliver the promise of a healthier product with no compromise on flavour.

I now tell my children daily that the greatest tool they should have in life is ‘self-belief’, sometimes I need reminding of that myself!

Check out more of Anishya’s delicious products and her story here.

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